For every joke made about the title of this film and the actors who took part in it, there’s another Philip K. Dick story being adapted somewhere with better results. Dick’s novels have come into the Hollywood light at an increased late recently, with films like Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly being the most recent trips into his mind. Unfortunately, not all of them have been winners and Paycheck is a sad example of a good story gone awry due to poor acting. What baffles the mind even more is that the actors in the film aren’t even bad (as in they don’t normally excel at hamming up films)—so where did the big disconnect come from?
In a futuristic but familiar world, a high-tech engineer whose memory has been partially erased must use a group of unrelated objects, including a wire, a ticket stub and a bus token as clues to discover the truth about his previous identity, and collect a paycheck he had been awaiting. Based on the short story by science fiction author Phillip K. Dick.
When I heard that this film was actually based off of a Dick story, I was actually intrigued. Sure I’d heard bad things about it…but Affleck, Thurman, Aaron Eckhart, and Paul Giamatti? Surely there’s got to be SOMETHING good in this one, right? I don’t know how, but…no. No, there is nothing here that’s redeemable, which is a giant shame because the plot was genuinely interesting until it stopped being developed and teetered into nowheresville.
A lot of Dick’s novels are full of hyperbole and needlessly confusing plot twists, but Paycheck really didn’t have any of that. What was a genuinely entertaining premise with a solid amount of back story became a disappointing mess of a film that really just fell apart at the end. While I’m sure it’s difficult to stretch a short story into a movie, the real sad part of it is that it was actually working until even the minor characters become tedious. Really? You hired Uma Thurman to spout off wisdom about getting second chances? C’mon.
And that’s what confuses me more than anything about this movie. I won’t rag on Affleck’s acting because I’ve seen him do good, so I know it’s not a lack of ability (kind of like Natalie Portman in Star Wars). I also don’t want to lay the blame solely on John Woo, as the film is nicely directed, although a bit weak in the knees when it comes to pulling off all that is required to make this a truly solid action film (which is what it is—it’s certainly not sci-fi like Dick’s other adapted stories…although there are elements of sci-fi in it, it’s just more present day).
Truth is I don’t know who to blame for the mess that this film became. It seemed like a good and simple action flick, but the casting was either done completely wrong or no one got the memo to stop hamming it up. Affleck, Thurman, Eckhart…they’re all equally to blame and at the same time I hesitate to even lay it at their feet. Maybe it was Woo’s fault for the absurdity of the film. Considering that Affleck has even come out and publicly bashed it, it’s clear how he feels about it and the other actors…well, they have no real reason to talk about it as their career has taken massive upswings since this mess debuted in theaters.
Plot holes abound and whether you try to make sense of them is up to you, but I honestly had no trouble forgetting about this film (until I wrote this review) after the credits came up. More than anything I think I’m just upset that it had such potential to be good but a series of incredibly lame events (acting, writing, whatever) caused it to become a fantastically huge disappointment. You can safely Skip this one as no amount of love for Philip K. Dick’s works can make this something enjoyable.
What the…who’s idea was it to put this on Blu-ray? Granted, after worldwide box office is taken into account the film certainly wasn’t a complete failure and did make some money, but did it really make enough to warrant a release on the HD format? Before Minority Report, even? Whatever the reasoning behind that, this release comes in a standard Elite Blu-ray case including an insert for upgrading your player’s firmware and the disc itself, coated in the bland grey art that Paramount loves to toss on the discs.
Video is an AVC encoded outing and, admittedly, looks pretty good. It’s still fairly recent, after all, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t look good, but it was still easy on the eyes. Woo certainly knows how to frame and direct, I’ll give him that, even if the resulting acting that took place during the sequences wasn’t worth anything. A TrueHD 5.1 track is included as well, which brings the action to the surrounds and subwoofer on more than one occasion. As far as cheap entertainment goes, I’ve certainly seen and heard worse. Also included are English 5.1 Dolby Digital , 5.1 Dolby Digital EX tracks as well as French and Spanish tracks. English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles are also included.
Extras are all ported over from the previous DVD release and include:
• Commentary by Director John Woo
• Commentary by Screenwriter Dean Georgaris
• Featurette: Paycheck: Designing the Future (18 minutes)
• Featurette: Tempting Fate (16 minutes)
• Additional Scenes: 7 Extended/Deleted Scenes w/ alternate ending
Overall it’s a decent package in terms of presentation, but when the film itself isn’t worth watching, it really doesn’t matter how good the extras are (although the Woo track was entertaining…but just not enough so). Skip It.
Paycheck is now available on Blu-ray.